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Grinding Down with the Gotham Girls

Oct 16, 2007

by Vanessa Bertozzi handmade and vintage goods

We knocked on the door of an old cigar factory in the middle of Queens after hours.  A woman who goes by the name of Ginger Snap let us in and we immediately found ourselves in the heart of NYC’s roller derby scene. As we tried our best not to get knocked over and keep our video equipment safe, dozens of helmeted, mini-skirt-wearing, bad-ass women flew around us on rollerskates, smashing into each other as they got down to their practice scrimmage. The four teams that make up NYC’s female roller derby league, The Gotham Girls, meet here in what they call the "Crashpad." It’s a remote location, but with New York’s rental rates, it’s what the league can afford. 


Ginger Snap (her real name is Natily Blair) told us that most of the women just go by their derby tags when they’re together and some of them don’t even know their real names. With aliases like Ariel Assault, Bonnie Thunders, and Bitchie Slambora, the Gotham Girls raise hell at a roller rink in the Bronx each month with their bruising, and sometimes bloody, roller derby bouts.  

The Gotham Girls are one of over 40 leagues across the nation that take part in this gritty sport, and are divided into 4 teams:  The Manhattan Mayhem, Queens of Pain, Bronx Gridlock and Brooklyn Bombshells.  Women of all ages and athletic ability participate in the bouts and take pride in developing skills as tough as their names.  Tankerbell, a team member from the Manhattan Mayhem, told me that she broke her nose in her debut bout.  Ouch! Ginger Snap and the other ladies we met, explained the dedication of the women, their coaches, and their fans. There’s such an intensity to the sport, in its hardcore athleticism and in its the camaraderie. We hope the video below conveys it!



Roxy Balboa gave us some insights into the role of fashion in roller derby. She’s responsible for designing all the costumes for the NYC-based teams, though she says it’s all about the ladies adding their own personal flair. She’s also got an  Etsy shop, roxybalboa, but roller derby has taken over all her free time! 

Li’l Red Terror, an Etsy seller who goes by  kellyk17 on Etsy, volunteers to help run the roller derby organization in addition to her fulltime job.  Roller derby is totally DIY and member-run—everything from renting their space "the Crashpad" to putting on games, referred to as "bouts." 

Do you know how to skate?  Comment below and let us know! 


Further Resources: 


Pink Rollerskate Earrings
Pink Rollerskate Earrings
Sublime Stitching Roller Derby Transfers
Sublime Stitching Roller Derby Transfers
LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE  4 Piece Set Cartoon - Badges Pin Backs Buttons
LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE 4 Piece Set Cartoon - Badges Pin Backs Buttons
Dictionary Necklace - Roller Skate
Dictionary Necklace - Roller Skate
long sleeve girls roller skate shirt, small
long sleeve girls roller skate shirt, small
vintage. pink. blue. lavender. white. SPRINTS. child. roller. skates
vintage. pink. blue. lavender. white. SPRINTS. child. roller. skates
ELECTRIC MAYHEM Mineral Eyeshadow by Coffin Color - makeup for your rock and roll lifestyle
ELECTRIC MAYHEM Mineral Eyeshadow by Coffin Color - makeup for your rock and roll lifestyle
I heart roller derby - Zach Trover for Tinymeat
I heart roller derby - Zach Trover for Tinymeat


  • MayaBella

    MayaBella said 9 years ago

    That was so fabulous. I did not know they still have that going on! You go girls!

  • puckbert

    puckbert said 9 years ago

    wonderful but jealous-making! i'm a newbie skater and i fractured my tailbone in practice last week, so i don't get to skate for aaages! way to make a kid jealous!

  • APunkinCardCompany

    APunkinCardCompany said 9 years ago

    wow, I skated a long time ago! These women are hardcore!

  • ctrygirl80

    ctrygirl80 said 9 years ago

    We used to go skating all the time growing up. I'm sure I would hurt myself now. These girls rock!

  • foldedpigs

    foldedpigs said 9 years ago

    oh my lordy! i HEART roller derby. thanks for this awesome derby plug! i've been playing for two and a half years now and been a part of two leagues. kansas city roller warriors and now the ohio rollergirls. it's an amazing sport and everyone should check it out! support your local derby! luv -meredith- aka hayley vomit #76

  • scatterbox

    scatterbox said 9 years ago

    Yeah! More Etsy derby girls!! I skate with the Carolina Rollergirls in Raleigh. If you haven't seen a bout of the new roller derby, what are you waiting for?? I guarantee there's one closer to you than you think, and there are international leagues, too. Get out there and support this awesome sisterhood of diverse bad-asses! Better yet... try out! Tina - Red Mojo #7

  • Spiderbite

    Spiderbite said 9 years ago

    Roller derby is so cool! I wanted to do it, but I'm scared. Without health insurance or a day job, if I broke my wrist, how would I make my books and a living?! I only knew 2 roller derby girls in my time and both broke their wrists. I can't afford it!

  • RedRooster

    RedRooster said 9 years ago

    I'm fresh meat with River City Rollergirls! Congrats to Etsy for profiling this great sport!

  • akcupcake

    akcupcake said 9 years ago

    AK Cupcake #three Rage City Rollergirls!!

  • dottedwithhearts

    dottedwithhearts said 9 years ago

    hey hey fellow derby girl etsy-ians! i skate with the Mason Dixon Roller Vixens around the MD/PA area, and absoltely LOVE it! I highly reccommend it to any lady up for the challenge! Or just be a fan! We cant do it with them! :)

  • SupernovaDesigns

    SupernovaDesigns said 9 years ago

    Roller derby scares the holy hell out of me, but rock on to the rad ladies who've got the cajones to do it!

  • rls2131

    rls2131 said 9 years ago

    I am in love with all that is roller derby. Thanks for the article!

  • kcroteau

    kcroteau said 9 years ago

    I play for Providence - k-oz, #2nd law. :D

  • ApertureAgog

    ApertureAgog said 8 years ago

    So excited that Bust is promoted Derby and Etsy this week. Check out my my new derby tshirt line -

  • steampunkjewelry

    steampunkjewelry said 7 years ago

    I don't skate...I don't like to fall dawn. I remember roller derby from when i was a kid, I had no idea that people still did it.

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